I read Zero Waste Home, by Bea Johnson, thinking it might have applications for those of us who are preparing to survive come what may. My impressions are mixed. This isn’t a book tailored to preppers, but it could have its uses for you.
This isn’t a new book, and you may have heard of it before. It’s copyright date is 2013.
The concept isn’t particularly new either. It’s all about living in an environmentally friendly, responsible lifestyle and cutting exposure to toxins as much as possible. There’s more to the recommended lifestyle than cutting back on consumerism and limiting trash output.
While a simpler lifestyle is the goal, what Johnson exemplifies seems extreme to me and may not be realistic for many of us. But she does show us it’s possible.
She points out that living a zero waste lifestyle needs to be cultivated and grown into. It’s not something you or I can do all at once.
Zero Waste Home isn’t about total minimalist living or living off the grid, but if that’s the path you choose for your prepping strategy, this book may be a place to start. Besides, if everything goes South, we may need to adopt a number of Johnson’s tricks and tips.
Not many of us have lived through the Great Depression of the 1930’s, but we may have picked up habits from those who have. Wearing second hand clothes is nothing new to us. Neither is finding a new use for items that have outlived their original purpose.
We’re familiar with frugality dictated by necessity. People in today’s society are not.
Such was the case with Bea Johnson. She had to come down from a life of affluence I’ve never experienced. Thus, she comes across to me as elitist and patronizing. Your impression may be different, should you choose to read her book.
Johnson claims a number of benefits to the zero waste lifestyle, ranging from saving money and time to better health.
- Kitchen and grocery shopping
- Bathroom, toiletries and wellness and health
- Bedroom and wardrobe
- Housekeeping and maintenance
- Work space and junk mail
- Kids and school
- Holidays and gifts
- …and more
Throughout the book we find five steps incorporated into the discussion of the topics shown above.
- Refuse what we do not need.
- Reduce what we do need and cannot refuse.
- Reuse what we consume and cannot refuse. (Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.)
- Recycle what we cannot refuse, reduce or reuse.
- Rot–Compost the rest.
Step 3 is one that’s probably most familiar to us. And gardeners everywhere will be glad for the mention of step 5.
Believe it or not, Johnson isn’t a fan of recycling. The less there is to recycle, the better. She urges us to get rid of all the plastic we possibly can. Don’t let it come into the house, and it won’t have to go back out.
Here are a few questions to ponder.
Could you get along without having a trash can in the kitchen? Could you bring all your groceries home in cloth bags and jars? Do you know what to buy in bulk and what not to buy that way?
Ever thought of making your own toothbrush as well as toothpaste? Would you use an alternative to toilet paper? Ladies, would you make your own cosmetics?
How familiar are you with the many uses for vinegar around the house and in the garden?
Would you “make” your own paper from the papers you have around the house?
Would you get rid of your stapler and staples in your home office? This is one of those nit picky items that goes to the extreme for me. The last package of staples I bought will likely last for years. Staples are too small to worry about the space they take in a landfill.
Could you cut down on the number of Christmas presents and cards you give and receive? What about homemade gifts and craft projects?
Do you know how to minimalize waste products when camping with your family?
Would you talk to managers at grocery stores, restaurants and other businesses about eliminating disposable packaging?
These are just a few of the areas Johnson covers.
You’ll be grateful for the number of recipes which appear throughout the book on such things as mustard, glue, cosmetics, cleaning products and more. There’s a helpful resource list in the back of the book, too. But looking on the dark side, it won’t be much use if the Internet goes down.
As you might guess, Johnson encourages you and me to adopt as much of the zero waste lifestyle as possible and then be ambassadors for it. However, her projections of what the future could look like are idealistic, in spite of her claims to the contrary.
I don’t see this way of living becoming widely accepted. But, as noted above, circumstances may change, forcing us into creatively doing with much less.
You’re welcome to buy Zero Waste Home by clicking on its title wherever you see it in this post. Johnson invites you to pass it along to someone else or donate it to your library. For that matter, borrow it first, then see if you want a copy for yourself.
Either way, have a look and draw your own conclusions as to whether a zero waste home should be part of your prepping strategy.
You may also want to view my post about how to right size your life for survival.